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Contax S2 successor


Well-Known Member
First of all I would like to congratulate Dirk for the quality of this site and the information which is provided.
I am the proud owner -since 1994- of a Contax S2, silver, which has performed faultlessly ever since. It only gave me two problems: the first of them being the black flat spring plate which holds the flash in place in the hot shoe falling (nothing that a drop of contact glue would not solve -in fact it was assembled this way-) and the batteries (if using LR44s) not lasting at all in very cold weather.

But I am very satisfied about the reliability of the camera, the build quality, the feeling and the images it delivers.

But wanting to move on -and of course not wanting to put my trusty S2 to retirement, only for a while as a back-up body-, I had been taking a look at the available rivals:
1.- The Contax Aria. Very nice camera, looks good, small and well proportioned, with a vast array of exposure metering and modes -very important- (and I could continue using the superb 50mm f1.4 Planar). But I am unsure about its reliability (being totally battery-dependent) and its ruggedness (a plastic back might break before a metal one). Maybe I should test one

2.- The Leica R8. The viewfinder info is just superb, and ergonomics and exposure modes, too. The shutter speed dial and release are located in the same position as in my first camera (the old faithful Praktica BX20), but it's a bit too heavy and, again, battery dependent. I tested a demo item in a Show and it certainly speeds up taking photos.

3.- The Leica R6.2. This one would have been the winner -for me- but some thing or another always put me off. It's a no longer produced -but still supported- SLR, but what worries me are the reliability problems that Peter mentioned some time ago. Has anyone experienced or heard something about them?
Ergonomics and feeling are not as good as on the R8 or Aria, but it can be used regardless of conditions. And has different metering modes which my S2 doesn't have.

I would be very grateful if somebody could give me some advice, hence the Leica (but then a secondhand R6) was also considered before buying the S2 but the S2 won the battle.


Well-Known Member
Hi Robert,

I once tried a Leica R (4) myself. I switched to or stayed with Contax because of lens quality and lens prices!

The leica lenses I used (2.8/90 and 2.8/135) just couldn't compete with Canon (EOS), Pentax (I still have my MX with 2.5/135) or Zeiss (2.8-28, 35, 50, 135, 3.5/200) lenses. Build quality is superb -YES! Ergonomics are very good - o.k. - but everything is quite heavy ! And most other lenses are much more expensive than the Zeiss ones ! and that not being better !

Again you always have to pay attention if you buy 2nd hand. There are lenses only measuring for Leicaflex, some only for AV and only the newest ones for R4,5,7,8,9. And therse are very expensive.... (you can partly buy a Zeiss lens new for it!)

If the battery thing is important - I'm still using my 137MA using AA-cells which you can get nearly everywhere on this planet. Another cheap backup choice is the Yashica FX3. Nearly every Contax has the ability to run with batteries in a holder in your pocket.

I'd stay with Contax.

Best wishes



Well-Known Member
Thank you very much for your advice, Paul. As you say, the most sensible choice is to stay with Contax.
Best wishes


Well-Known Member

Don't worry about the plasic in the Aria, this is my
choice for a travelling SLR camera, I have been using it
successfully for 3 years without any problem.
(I have a range of cameras).


>The Contax Aria. Very nice camera, looks good, small and well proportioned, with a vast array of exposure metering and modes -very important- (and I could continue using the superb 50mm f1.4 Planar). But I am unsure about its reliability (being totally battery-dependent) and its ruggedness (a plastic back might break before a metal one). Maybe I should test one.

I have to add my endorsement of the Aria for what you are looking for. Fo= r 20 years I used a Nikon FG-20, which was the ultra-basic Nikon of its d= ay (aperature-priority and manual only, and very little else). For a cons= umer product, including some plastic, it was amazingly durable. I didn't = put pro-level cycles on my shutter and mount, but I did manage to drop it= and bang it a lot in lots of overseas and outdoor trips, including one= good submersion.

Having had the opportunity to shoot with some Zeiss lenses and being a) i= mmediately sold and b) sorry I hadn't tried them sooner, I looked at vari= ous Contax bodies and settled on the Aria. It's great.

You're not switching from a cheap Nikon, and I wouldn't equate a cheap Ni= kon to the S2, obviously, but I would draw two conclusions from my experi= ence for you:

1. If the Nikon held up to my abuse with 20-year-old plastic, I can't ima= gine that that an Aria with good new plastic is going to be a problem.

2. Functionally and size-wise, if you're used to a small, basic camera, t= he Aria is your best Contax bet after another S2.

Plus, as you mention, the array of metering and modes is great. Definitel= y test one.



Well-Known Member
Thank you very much for your advice, William and Will.

If you both have been using the Aria mainly for travelling (and this was my S2's main role) for many years, and it's light, and easy to handle, it could be the best bet.

In the beginning I could not rely at all in a camera with plastic parts, but as Will states, if 20-year-old plastic held up the abuse, why couldn't the Aria do so?

One of these days I will probably drop a visit to my local photo shop and test one.

Thank you very much and best regards.



Well-Known Member
I may be wrong but I thought Leica R series were just dressed up Minolta Dynax's at four times the cost. OK the lenses are pretty good but do you want to pay USD1800 for a Minolta? I don't think the Aria is one of Contax's better efforts; it always seemed a bit "cheesepared" to me. If you want a proper Contax SLR go for an AX, RX or RTS111.

Best regards Wilson


Well-Known Member

I was dubious of the Aria until I bought one. Plastic shell, yes, but amazingly solid. It has a metal superstructure and glass pentaprism, just like its big brothers. The big payoff is mass: with Planar 50/1.4, you have a killer picture-taking machine that weighs less than the RX body! Use the Tessar, and the combo weighs less than a Leica M body. I don't fancy hauling the RTSIII on vacation.

To go lighter, you must accept Contax T and its limitations.


Well-Known Member

> I don't think the Aria > is one of Contax's better efforts; it always seemed a bit > "cheesepared" to me.

Do you actually HAVE an Aria? Personally, I find the Aria the most usable Contax I have (and I have an RTS-III, AX and S2). It does everything right, at least that I care about. The only comment I can make about it, is it's not as rugged "feeling" as the RTS-III...and that's not a complaint at all.

The viewfinder is very good, display is fine, it has the AE Lock when depressing the shutter button half way, has an awesome's reasonably quiet, small package, full featured. I haven't found it to be lacking in any area, really...the larger "normal" lenses like the 85/1.4 and 35/1.4 don't overpower it at all, it's comfortable to use.

Some people have issues with the matrix metering mode...and if you do, simply don't use matrix metering. I, personally haven't had an issue with it (or any other Aria issue for that matter), and I prefer spot metering anyway. I have to say it's my favorite Contax.




Well-Known Member
Hello Wilson,

I also have the RX, but I much prefer taking my Aria on trips,
this is one of Contax's best cameras (as is the RX).



How does the Aria "balance" longer zooms or primes? When I bought my ST, I considered the Aria, since it has a "matrix style meering system", but many of the reviews stated it didn't balance well with longer "lens". Also since it was smaller than some of the other models, it didn't "fit well" into larger hands. I have larger hands. I also read that the rubber coating had a tendency to deteriorate more rapidly.

It's too late for me, but is any of that true? Those are the reasons I choose not to go with it. Unfortunately where I live there isn't a Contax dealer for 150 miles, and he didn't have any in stock - go figure.


Well-Known Member
Rico, I would agree that you need an elephant (preferably a large one) to carry around my RX with the two lenses I use most, the 35-70 and 18-28. I used to carry around a Leica 11f but recently that has got a little cranky. That's why I have just bought a G2/45mm. I originally went over to Contax some 20 years ago as I had two plastic bodied SLR's have body problems after use in very hot climates, an Olympus and a Nikon. I would be very reluctant to trust them again. It's the same reason when I was driving big single seater racing cars on the European Hill Climb Ch&ionship, that I preferred to have aircraft quality alloy round me rather than carbon fibre. You know what alloy will do when it hits a tree but you just don't with carbon fibre. Plastic and composite materials are wonderful stuff but they can still behave unpredictably just when you least want them to. My 20-year-old 139Q still does sterling duty as my spare B&W body with only a couple of professional cleans during that period. I also have a Minox LX for those situations where you don't want to be seen carrying a camera at all but in spite of what the sub-mini enthusiasts would have you believe, it really doesn't take very good photos unless you are into that grainy effect. wilson


Interesting how it moved from being about S2 into Aria vs. RX vs. everything else. I have Aria and I really like it. I have small hands, but it's a little bit too small for me as well. That's why I'm thinking about getting RX or RXII or RTSIII. However, I'm not going to get rid of my Aria for a simple reason. It's light and very comfortable. I carry it arround in the flex-case all the time with either P50, D28 or S85 attached to it. It's great for street photography and for getting around in tight spaces. In my personal opinion, in entire manual-focus line Aria is the biggest success story. I'm absolutely certain that total sales figures probably put Aria on the top. I would even think that for each 5 Arias sold there might be one other Contax manual-focus camera sold. However, I would personally prefer to have something like RXII with mirror lock-up (or mirror-lockup via 2sec time as it's done on N1), higher speed TTL flash control, 1/8000sec top shutter speed and optional vertical grip. Matrix metering would be nice too, but not necessary to have. If anything like that would ever come from Kyocera - I think they can retire RTSIII then.



>=20 >=20 >=20 > Earlier Leica ( before R8 & R9 ) used Minolta body platform but it perfor= ms > differently and which is also very common in auto industries, it is much = more > than just dress up and absolutely R has nothing to do with Dynax. The opt= ical > is still the key of quality, film or digital. Aria is light weight, > accountable like the old 167MT and can give you picture quality same as o= ther > higher end bodies and with its portability, it perhaps may assist you get > better pictures. Brgds/kaisern >=20 >=20


Well-Known Member
>>>>>>>>>>>Re: Wilson's comment: I may be wrong but I thought Leica R series were just dressed up > Minolta Dynax's. The R3 was built on a XE-7 (I think) chassis, reworked with Leica electronics, lens mount, etc, etc. The R4 was built on a XD-11 chassis, allowing for Tv priority in addition to Av, etc. Took them 3 tries to achieve reliability. When the agreements were made between Leitz/Minolta and Carl Zeiss/Yashica, some felt that both of these were just dressed up versions of their cheaper Japanese counterparts. But several models later, we see models such as the AX, RX, RTSIII, which are quite different from the Japanese nameplate cameras. Gone are the days when something was made solely by a single company, or in a single country. Even patents are licensed/shared. Look at the partnerships in addition to the above. Carl Zeiss with Sony/Hasselblad/Rollei. Leitz with Carl Zeiss (including their Japanese facility, Sigma, Matsushita (Panasonic), etc. Olympus had OTF metering in the OM-2, but the patents came from another Japanese company. Consider the Yashica FX-3, some made by Cosina. Manufacturers are not anxious to divulge much of this. Look at the advertising of Hasselblad (V-series), and Leica. You will not find photos of their Japanese lenses showing "Made in Japan" on the bottom.


Active Member

I can only confirm the positive comments on the Aria. I have owned two in 5 years (1st one was stolen in Africa) and think it is a super price-performance ratio, very nice design & balance of features. With the 2.8/45 Tessar the Aria is very compact. I recently bought a used 5.6/400mm Sigma which balances superbly on the Aria. (Wished there was a 400 mm MM lens, however). I bought the Aria first and now I am trying to find a Contax S2(b) as a backup.


Well-Known Member
> Dear Jan,

Thank you very much for your advice. In fact. I have bought an Aria and I am waiting for it to reach me. I was reluctant to rely on an all-electronic camera, but according to Kyocera U.S.A. and what the posts say it's a truly well-built,balanced and rugged camera. In the beginning I wanted to buy a RX or RXII but finally I gave up because I found it bulkier, heavier and with no important features by comparison to the Aria.

I will let you know how my handling with the Aria goes. Thank you very much and best regards.

Robert >


Well-Known Member
Jan, If you want to find a 400mm non-C/Y MM lens, I think there was a manual focus Adaptall/Tamron around 380 to 400mm for which you can get an MM C/Y adaptall2 coupling. Your dealer may tell you that only an AE coupling is available but insist that the dealer contact the main Tamron importer and they will find the MM is available but perhaps only to special order. There should be some of these lenses around S/H and there may still be some new ones available from old stock. I have the 80 - 210mm BBAR Tamron with a C/Y Adaptall2 MM coupling and it works very well. Wilson


Active Member
> Wilson, > Yes, there was a Tamron Adaptall 4/400 LD lens and I even still have > the Tamron Adaptall 2 MM adapter from when I owned the Adaptall > 2.8/80-200 LD and briefly the 2.5/180 LD. All three lenses are quite > large and don't balance too well on the Aria. Would probably be a > much better fit for Contax RTS III or AX. My current "plain" Sigma > 5.6/400 (non-Apo version) is very compact and well-built. Image > quality is tolerable, about on par with the Novoflex folllow focus > lenses. > I might still purchaase the Tamron 4/400, if it is as good as the new > N4/400 Apo Tele Tessar for N1 and NX. Need to find a comparison test. Jan